Rain cape

January 13, 2017 § 28 Comments


forecast rain, heavy. check closet. two rain capes. specialized rain cape like sieve. white plastic rain cape like greenhouse. recheck forecast. still heavy rain. post facebag. flog ride still on. derision responses. stageone notes new rain cape for sale. purchase. now $85 short in rent money. but have three rain capes. text bad judgment friend. want rain cape? wants. morning 3:00. steady rain. dread. morning 4:00 heavier rain. heavier dread. morning 5:00 alarm. no rain. joy. coffee. news. congress took my insurance. yay. better not take risks. dress. 6:00 poke nose outside. heaviest deluge since noah. push bike from under awning. instantly soaked to skin. temp 52. subtract 10 for wind chill. 42 degree cold shower. awake now. coffee wasn’t needed. descend no visibility. consider absence of insurance. continue anyway. soakage. rain cape working. chest dry. rest of body not so much. rain pelting. can’t see. arrive at flog launch. two other idiots huddled under arch. bad judgment friend has no rain gear. give plastic greenhouse cape. 6:35 pointy sharp. ride. rain pelts incomprehensibly hard, only more so. fun a concept not a reality. more rain. sadness. bodies slowly warm. slow as in not at all. six terrible flog laps. idiots senselessly cold and miserable. more sadness. la cuesta unendurable. all ascend. rain cape merely a fashion statement. only effective rain cape a roof over your head. flogging ends. rain ends. pain ends. sensations return to extreme places. can’t wait until next time.



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Coming soon to a Palos Verdes Estates near you!

January 12, 2017 § 47 Comments

Since the city of Palos Verdes Estates has decided not to install the Bikes May Use Full Lane signage recommended by their traffic safety commission and traffic engineer and supported by hundreds of cyclists, law and common sense, we’ve taken matters into our own hands.


Who knew that you could purchase ten honking, big-ass CalTrans-approved BMUFL signs, the real steel deal, for a mere $362.81? And that you could order them online?

We did, and we did.

Join us this coming weekend, and weekends throughout 2017 as we take to the four ingress/egress points of Palos Verdes Estates and hold up signs to educate motorists about the right of bikes to use the full lane, and to stress that all motorists (including Garrett and Cynthia Unno, Robert Chapman, Michael Kirst, and that Zaragoza lady) need to “CHANGE LANES TO PASS.”

The city council can — and they have — locked the chamber doors to public dissent.

But the streets are still free and we’ll be out there helping to spread the word.

Join us!



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Game on

January 10, 2017 § 17 Comments

The most excellent and iconic Vlees Huis road race was cancelled for 2017, but now it’s back, calendared for February 26! This is great news for everyone who likes variety in road racing, and by “variety” I mean “non-industrial park crit.”

The resuscitation didn’t happen by accident. The promoter, Sam Ames, has been one of the most consistent and dedicated supports of bike racing in the state. He has run Vlees Huis on break-even or razor thin margins, and has provided an amazingly high quality race even as numbers have declined.

Incredibly bummed that we were about to lose one of the best road races on the calendar, one of the best racers in the state, Greg Leibert, founder of Big Orange, reached out to Sam to find out what it would cost to supplement Sam’s outlay so that he’d make enough money for the event to be worth continuing.

The cost? $3,500.00.

Big Orange is a bike club, but its focus is on racing even though only a minority of riders race. Greg proposed to the board that it pony up the money, and the board unanimously agreed to do so.

Vlees Huis is back on the calendar. I hope that every club in SoCal that supports bike racing will send a few riders.

This might be a model for sustaining unprofitable but incredibly good road races. Many SoCal racing clubs have money, and the things they spend their funds on don’t always directly improve the general welfare of bike racing. Although team vans and race reimbursements are great, neither counts for much when there aren’t any races to attend.

It’s also a great model because it allows clubs to sponsor races without all of the hassle and full expense of actually promoting one. Most promoters have the deal wired, but they are typically a few thousand short when it comes to making a profit. This would be an ideal fix for clubs that want to keep the calendar robust but don’t want to make the huge commitment to putting on a race. The recent loss of the Carlsbad GP and Brentwood GP comes to mind as clubs drowned in red ink putting on a fantastic event. Rather than withdrawing from race promotion completely, clubs could help struggling promoters close the deal, which in most cases doesn’t put anywhere near the strain on a club’s resources that putting on a race does.

For now, thank you to the Big Orange board of Greg Leibert, Greg Seyranian, Joann Zwagerman, Kristie Fox, Scott Torrence, Don Wolfe, and Denis Faye for putting our race club’s money where the racing is. Thanks as well to Sam Ames for his willingness to give us one of the best and toughest races on the calendar.



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January 9, 2017 § 16 Comments

My grandson has toys like other kids, but he doesn’t like them. Instead, he likes the toys that aren’t his and that aren’t toys, either.

For example, the extension tubes and the sweeper/sucker for the vacuum cleaner. He likes to take those out of the closet as soon as he gets here, come into my bedroom where I’m sleeping, and beat me in the head with the tubes. They are plastic and they hurt and I never fail to wake up.

Then he climbs up on the bed with the filthy sweeper attachment and plops it in my lap and smiles.

I know my job, which is to play with the filthy attachment and whack the comforter with the tubes. We do that for a while. It is pretty funny judging by his laughter, but it is not funny at all judging from my wife’s shrieks. I guess she doesn’t like the attachment thing on her pillow.

Which is weird because we were in Santa Barbara this morning and she ordered a bagel with “the works” and she was about halfway through it. “Is it good?” I asked.

“It’s delicious,” she said.

“Even the hair?” I asked.

“What hair?” she said.

“That one hanging out the end of the bagel.”

She looked and was grossed out. It wasn’t just a short little thing, it was good six-incher, blonde, and formerly belonged to the blonde girl who had made the bagel and was now making our coffee which I could only hope wasn’t going to be a cafe au lait au cheveux. We couldn’t decide whether to make a big deal out of it or not because the hair that was still on the girl’s head was obviously clean and freshly washed, but on the other hand when you order “the works” on your bagel they should tell you if it’s going to include hair.

Anyway, after we stow the vacuum cleaner attachments, I turn on the iPhone and play some music, which he likes because now he’s taken out granny’s Zumba 1.5-pound dumbbells with maraca-sand in the ends so they are mini-rhythm exercise devices. I don’t ever listen to music but one time I downloaded Cat Stevens’s Greatest Hits so I turn that on and he shakes the maracas to “Ooooh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world … ” and I sing and clap and he sways to the beat until his arms get tired and then he drops the weights, usually on my kneecaps, which hurts a lot, and suddenly I’m still saying “Ooooooh, baby, baby … ” but followed by “for fuck’s sake!” or some other grandfatherly phrase.

Next he ignores anything that says Fisher-Price on it and goes into the bathroom, then demands that I lift him up and set him on the counter.

If you are a woman you would simply not lift him up, but if you are a man, especially a grandfather, you do some quick calculus that looks like this:

  1. If I don’t pick him up he’s going to cry. Cry = Drive me nuts.
  2. If I do pick him up he’s going to make a huge mess but he will be quiet. Huge mess < Quiet for a while.
  3. My wife is going to get really angry about the huge mess. Angry wife > Drive me nuts.
  4. I can blame it on the baby. Angry wife – Baby blame = 0.

So I put him up on the counter.You don’t realize how dirty your bathroom counter is until you put a toddler on it. Toddlers see all kinds of tiny stuff, mostly because their eyes are super sharp and they’re inches away from what they’re looking at, whereas I’m way up high and am mostly blind anyway.

He likes the Nivea skin cream, and opens up the bright blue bottle and tries to drink it. “Don’t drink that,” I say.

He likes the pump-action skin cream for dry and chapped legs and he whacks on the pump and out splurts a gob of cream, which he tries to eat. I let him lick it so he can see how nasty it is and because that’s the best way to teach a little kid what not to eat.

He loves it and tries to eat all of it, but I stop him.

Then he opens the toothpaste tube. I put some of it on the electric toothbrush and he loves that. We turn the toothbrush on and off a hundred times and each time I put it up against his front tooth. It literally is a tooth brush.

Next he dumps out the razor cup that’s got a bunch of other stuff in there, kind of like a utility cup for your face. I look in the bottom of the cup. Yuck! Nasty!

He sticks his hand in it and rubs the wet brown stuff in the bottom of the cup. Quick as lightning, finger into mouth. I’m hoping the skin cream will kill the bacteria somehow. I keep waiting for him to make a “yuck” face but he acts like he’s been given the keys to the candy store.

Finally we get bored, about the time he grabs for the razor, and we go back into the living room.

“What were you doing in there?” his mom asks.

“Nothing,” I say.

She hands him a little Fisher-Price colored ball. He kicks it away in disgust and toddles over to the closet where we keep the vacuum cleaner.



Two weeks in

January 8, 2017 § 16 Comments

This year, completely giving up in the face of age, declining mental faculties, physical weakness, and the recovery capacity of a worn out shoe, I resolved to whack my mileage and riding time even further. The idea is that by riding less I will not be riding as much.

The trajectory sort of looks like this:

  • 2014: 12,000 miles
  • 2015: 10,000 miles
  • 2016: 8,000 miles
  • 2017: 6,000 miles

Hopefully, if I am able to  ride less, this will translate into less time on the bike. So far it has been a success. Last week I rode about thirteen hours, down from about fifteen. This week I rode twelve hours, cutting another hour out. If I keep this up I will be able to achieve my goal of ten hours per week, which is less than twelve, and which means that by doing less riding I won’t have ridden as much.

The other part to riding less is riding fewer days. Instead of riding five or six days a week, now I’m riding four. This is the other part of my stragetic goal: By riding fewer days, I will not be cycling as many days. Stragety has never been my strenthg, but I am working on it.

This week and last week I rode Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and one day on the weekend, which was less than riding Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and both days on the weekend. Stragetic goals of riding fewer miles through less cycling, and riding fewer days by eliminating certain days of riding have accrued stragetic results.

I’m already noticing some significant effects of riding fewer hours and fewer days.

  1. Less hours are being spent riding.
  2. Fewer days are being used for riding.
  3. Legs have a peppy feeling, like chocolate sprinkles.
  4. Less laundry.
  5. And etc. 



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Mentor case

January 6, 2017 § 16 Comments

One of the guys I ride with is Surfer Dan. When we first started riding together a long time ago I could beat him pretty handily. He was a tri-dork runner dude. But then he did the bike thing for a few weeks and I couldn’t beat him handily anymore. He did the bike thing for a few more weeks and I never beat him again.

We used to do suicidal attack-from-the-gun moves on the Donut Ride. Really stupid stuff, except for the one time we stuck it, which made all the failures worthwhile. Dan and I have had a lot of memorable rides together, like the time he fell on the bike path when he, Pablo, Holloway, Manslaughter, and I were on our way to do a super tough guy off-road ride on our road bikes.

He was pretty embarrassed because he’s an amazing bike handler, and the ultimate tough guy, so of course I named that part of the bike path Cobley Corner. He took it in stride, I think.

Dan is one of those guys who talks so much that sometimes you think he talks too much, especially about training. He’s super analytical, and well read, and is a superb athlete, and I’m none of those things except marginally well read, so on occasion I tell him to shut up, because he’s talking the training thing to death.

Of course it’s not me he’s trying to train; you can’t train a worn out old shoe. But if you are a new rider and you’re interested in getting better, and what new rider isn’t, Dan will share everything he knows with you, help you set up a training plan, answer your questions late at night, pat down your anxieties before a big race, lend you gear, and if you need it he’ll show up and do your workout with you.

Dan’s a mentor. Not a coach or a hired expert, just an old school mentor. He reminds me of the people I first rode with, guys like Fields and the Dicksons and Kevin Callaway the Good, riders who got pleasure in passing on what they knew. They all had different ways of mentoring; Scott’s was to take you seventy miles from home, get you lost, then check his watch and say he “had to get back” which meant you were either going to never get home or you were going to do a 70-mile TT.

Fields was much more analytical, and Callaway was exuberant. If he learned something, he had to tell you about it. Both of them loved it when they told you something, you used it, and it worked.

In any case, they were all mentors. They never got anything from it except the pleasure of passing on hard-won information so you could use it for your benefit. It’s as old as the human race, teaching people and getting pleasure when they succeed, or if they fail, getting pleasure out of knowing you tried to help.

I was talking to Dan about this one day and he laughed like he always does. There’s something about sharing what he knows that makes him happy. It’s his gift of giving that lets him receive.

Last night there was a big family blowup in my complex. Their family is collapsing. The mom had split for Japan, and the dad, who is a big, bullying drunk, was berating his teenage son outside. The son was so sad and broken and the dad hammered away at him.

“Get the hell out of here. You aren’t sleeping here, goddammit.”

The kid is probably 14, and I could hear him speaking softly, afraid. “Yes, sir.”

“Where’s your fucking mother? She go back to Japan? She catch the fucking plane?”

“Yes, sir.”

Then there was a bunch of unintelligible yelling by the drunk and stupid father. “Go to a fucking shelter. I don’t care.”

I could hear the boy standing there completely alone and defeated, nowhere to go, kicked out of his home, his mom on a plane, and nothing but the big, ugly, terrifying city of Los Angeles spread out like a claw.

“Ah, fuck it. Get the fuck back in here,” said the dad.

“Yes, sir,” said the boy.

It was the saddest thing I’ve heard in a long time, a kid being molded by the anger and failure and abuse of his father. That kid was in the middle of a maelstrom and he needed refuge. How was he going to get through school with his family falling apart? What was going to happen the next time, probably tomorrow, that his father blew up again? What was he going to do without his mom?

That poor kid. I thought about my grandson and felt guilty, a toddler who’s known nothing but love every single day of his short life, a child who’s got refuge and backup ten miles deep, and I thought about all the other kids in the world who are hungry, lonely, sick, abandoned, nowhere to go, no one to turn to, chained beneath the wheel with no way out.

Then I thought about my friend Dan and about how he selflessly reaches out to anyone who needs help, sharing his time, his passion, and if you ask for it, a place to crash in a pinch, a guy who cares about other people, and who, despite his imperfections, will lift you up and cheer you on if you need it, and who is always trying to help mold a better version of you

I went to bed that night and somehow slept soundly.



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Yes, but was it sport?

January 5, 2017 § 49 Comments

Robert Marchand, age 105, and French of course, set a new hour record for centenarians, pedaling his bike about twelve miles in sixty minutes, a pace that, as one wag put it, “is about how fast you’d ride down to the bakery for a baguette.”

Many thousands hailed the feat, but at least one sour journalist called the new hour record, “good for him, absurd for us,” as he railed about the silliness of calling the spectacle of a 105-year-old man puttering around a velodrome sport, or anything other than a testament to the simple impressiveness of existing at such an advanced age. He compared the feat to a circus freak show, where people are gawked at not for what they’ve done, but for what they are.

And his point isn’t a bad one. Presumably the pool of riders over the age of 100 attempting the hour record, is, well, small. And the angry journalist continued with the pretty shrewd observation that the real fascination isn’t with the cycling “exploit,” it’s with Marchand’s longevity. Rather than questions about training, equipment, or the incredible mental fortitude one needs to tackle the hour record, everyone wanted to know not the secret to his sporting success but the secret to his long life. It’s as if the press conference were to ask Usain Bolt, after breaking a world record, about the secret to his beautiful teeth.

One physician broke down Marchand’s longevity thus: 30% genetic, and 70% willpower, courage, and “clean living.” That sounds like an extremely unscientific 70 percent to me. He also noted, and this is the key, that Marchand’s record wasn’t an absolute one, but rather age-graded. It wasn’t a statement about the capacity of a person on a bike, it was a statement about the capacity of a 105-year-old-man on a bike, a capacity that few will ever be able to challenge because hardly anyone will ever a) live to be that old and b) be able to ride a bike if they are.

It’s the ultimate master’s race, where you are categorized first by the condition of your prostate, and only once it’s adjudged to be sufficiently flappy and leaky, does one look at your actual performance on the bike.

And frankly, why stop with the hour record in cycling? All that Marchand needs to do now is get in the pool and freestyle 100 laps and he will be the world record holder for that, too, and he could also pick up the world titles in the 200, 400, 800, and 1,500 simply by making it to one end of the pool and back a few times. Track and field events are probably out of his range, as the running events are already populated with 105-year-old champions, but there is an entire Guinness Book of World Records that Marchand could rewrite simply by doing them. Oldest guy to eat ten donuts, oldest guy to drink four cups of coffee, oldest guy to walk and chew gum at the same time. He could become the most decorated, record-breaking human of all time, not because he was particularly good at anything, but simply because he existed.

But …

If you take away all of the circus-freak enthusiasts who are in denial about their own age, who think that “age is just a number” (so is the speed of light, by the way), and who are really fascinated by Marchand’s longevity rather than his cycling, and if you focus on the cycling aspect itself, it’s not without athletic merit.

First, though, a few parameters. Sport seems to have two components, the absolute and the relative. Absolute records are the gold standard for performance, in this case the greatest distance ridden by any human being ever in one hour on a velodrome. There are no centenarians in this category.

The other component is relative. Men versus women, juniors versus elite athletes, para-athletes verus non-para athletes, and of course the ultimate “everyone’s a winner” combo of age + gender categorizations, i.e. masters events. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the relativity of closed universe sports, the best example of which is the World Series of Baseball which includes a single country.

Do these relative categorizations demean the legitimacy of an athletic accomplishment and deny it the category of sport? That depends. There’s a good argument to be made that if you’re the only person competing, it’s probably not as sporting as when you’re going against a field of a hundred competitors. And as you age, the pool gets smaller. Obviously. That’s why the idea of Marchand the oldest record holder in the 100 freestyle, Marchand the record holder donut eater, Marchand the record holder TV watcher doesn’t really sound that impressive.

On the other hand, the older you are, the harder it gets, and I’m not talking about your package. People who think that riding a bike at 80 isn’t a challenge simply don’t know anything about what it’s like to be 80. As you age everything gets harder, and more to the point, it gets a lot deadlier.

Falling off a bicycle, for example, is something that you’ll bounce up from in your 20s, but that could easily kill you in your 80s, to say nothing of your 90s, or dog forbid, your 100s. Danger and risk are part of sport, aren’t they? And we admire people who do courageous things, don’t we? Well, Marchand takes his life in his hands every time he throws a leg over. One false move and he could well be dead. 105-year-olds don’t get second chances.

For the people who think that Marchand’s feat is anything but, how many activities do you engage in daily that, with a single misstep, could kill you?

This understanding of the rising risk for aging athletes brings us back full circle, which is to the biggest sport, the biggest competition of all, that is to say longevity. Your longevity, unlike your master’s mixed time trial for riders 65+, is matched against every human who has ever lived. Life is the ultimate competition, and once you crack a hundred you are in rarefied air. Once you crack 105 you are, statistically, not only among the super elite, you are literally days away from death.

People who make it that far are rarely paragons of physical fitness. My wife’s grandmother, at 101, is completely senile and can’t walk. Life grinds you down, and most people, statistically, get ground down to death before they ever hit 80, much less 105. Things break, shit stops functioning, small accidents become catastrophic injuries, things fall apart, cf. Chinua Achebe.

So here we have a guy who didn’t just make the ultimate selection of life, and make it to the incredible age of 105, but he also had enough on the ball to ride his bike for an hour around a velodrome, and lest we forget, on a bike with no brakes. How many people age 50 can do that?

But even if you still don’t buy that a guy competing against himself is sport, isn’t it refreshing that the news media can celebrate some old codger for having the gumption to get out there and ride around in circles for an hour? Doesn’t it make you smile, just a little bit, to see someone that old making so many other people feel good about life, and inspiring people to try harder no matter what their age?

Makes me smile, anyway, which means that his feat wasn’t just good for him, but it was good for me, too.



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